La Passion selon Bruno

Text by Jean Desroche, brother of the artist

There is no other possible image. What can we still represent that still would have a meaning – at the same time a material perception, a meaning and a direction – after the veil of Veronica? If it does not proceed from there, does any canvas deserve to exist? Has it not become, in extreme violence and gentleness, the matrix of all canvases? Not (in fact) silencing them but, on the contrary, opening to the infinite the re-presentations of God, to make him again and always present. Doesn’t everything else, from ancient pagan images to the last episode of a television series, condemn itself to silence by opening only to the inner self?  No obligation here but the simple choice between proceeding either from the divine or from oneself, between co-creating or "creating", between procreation or onanism, between begetting or contraception, between Veronica’s kneeling or the not serviam, between receiving the Face of God, or thirty pieces of silver.

If it seems obvious, this choice is none the less rare. Even in a larger circle than sacred painting, the artists who choose to open up to the marvel of the mystery of the other, of the Other, with strength and humility, and aiming higher than their glory, are "the few workers", the others "Legion". The Stations of the Cross is a one-way path because it only walks upward to Calvary; a single path, the only one which is not a dead end, despite appearances, because we do not come up against the Cross, we are propelled towards Heaven. There is nothing else, or in any case greater, to say, write, or paint than the suffering transfigured by Love.

It is sometimes said that the gift to Veronica would have allowed the representation of God, differentiating christian art from other religious arts. It is misunderstanding that this gift transcends the categories of permissible and forbidden, that it is not a question of "let-paint" stamped by God before dying but of an infinite gift, between his Body to the Last Supper and His Mother on the Cross. A way of survival and salvation offered to art, the via dolorosa becoming epiphany of Love which also gives itself in image. It has been neither Christmas for the shepherds, nor the Epiphany for the Magi, nor the temple for circumcision or at 12 years of age for the Old Covenant, nor Cana for the spouses and the beginning of the mission for the world, nor the words, miracles, resurrections and abundant multiplication of loaves for the crowds, neither the one-on-one meetings for a man or a woman, nor even the unfair judgments before (and for) the temporal and spiritual powers, which were chosen to give us the image of the revelation of Love. In his Wisdom crowned by accepted suffering, Love chooses the blood, the thorn, the hair, the sweat, the dust, the gravel of the path stuck since the last fall, the denaturation of the face of the "most beautiful of the children of men” on the humble stuff, to offer us the disfigured mother of all figures. The veil of the temple is torn, when that of Saint Veronica tears the abyss;  art no longer refers flatly to itself but definitely opens to the invisible uncreated.

The swollen face of the suffering servant emerges violently up to us from our own abyss. It majestically emerges from the depths of debauchery, it emerges up to me from the depths of my violence. In this way of the cross, he shies away from our jaded gaze, yet paradoxically eager for selfies. The face of Christ looks at the ground; watch outside of the frame; disappears behind his hair; turns away from Evil; is hidden by the denudation of the body; at the cross, leans to its side, then forward, before becoming cadaverous. Our frustration of spoiled adults would drive us to reproach Him (let him bear that also) this apparent refusal of the portrait, or at least, of the look, in an easy "God has forgotten me", that allows me to reverse the terms of the exchange. We seen that He is in reality, in almost all the stations, refused, much more than He refuses himself : The painter reminds us that He does not cease to give himself to whom still wants him, to His co-redemptive Mother, to Veronica and to the women of Jerusalem.

The frustrated spectator suddenly understands that it can only be through the physical reciprocity of the loving gaze, that this face gives itself. That there will be no fake "face-camera", that the filters of his own photographs will not prevent transparency therefore a form of emptiness, that the Savior chooses the "face-veil" and the face to face , that he must follow in the footsteps of these women, for there is almost only them courageous and loving enough to seek to the end this beautiful look of bloody Love.
The gaze of This face, finally, is no longer given but imposes itself by its omnipresent victory of the Resurrection. Foreshadowing of the Parousia, the last painting reminds us that there will be a time when this gaze will strike down those who soiled it with their sputum.

If God existed, He would allow all this evil to happen to Him.

This is ultimately what these trying stations are repeating, it is undoubtedly the only answer to give to the endless excuse of our unbelieving contemporaries, disbelief which they imagine comfortable. This way of the cross pushes us, even forces us, to bear not only the unbearable suffering of God, but above all his no less unbearable contemporaneity, for which me, and you who reads me, are responsible, united in sin as we are. If we would contemplate this path with humility —and it sometimes takes more humility for the believer, or whoever believes that he is, than for the atheist— then we would have much to lose. And so much the better.

Jesus is condemned to death, and His royal purple spills on the steps as, soon enough, His Blood on the world, humble universal royalty. I am Pilatus, an atheist Pilatus who questions the truth in front of the Truth. I’m a dubious catholic Pilatus   who grabs his chin during mass, ready to look at his watch in front of the Offertory.

Jesus is loaded with his Cross and his scars mark his white garment. The purple, mockingly given as a decoration, now sours from the Body itself, and it is the sacrifice that flushes innocence in crimson for eternity. I am this follower in opprobrium, this accomplice in humiliation, this false friend of the slanderous taunt that exists only in the whirlwind of the triangulation of desire, turning for eternity around the same scapegoat which I overlook with my tense laughter.

Jesus falls for the first time and the Cross will bounce on the ground and on His back as He carries our sins and their countless cascading consequences. The fall is not yet over when I prepare myself to let fall this devouring violence on his spine. What a pleasure to unload my rage, what satisfaction in this strike ! Its noise and its penetration into the flesh will mark the measure of my anger and my anxieties.

Jesus meets his mother and she welcomes this divine cheek as she did the day before yesterday at the manger. Instead of a cradle, it is towards the Cross that she carries Him with the few spare blood that she has left in her, because each of those lashes, did she not receive them in her soul? I stay absent from the picture, to be able to contemplate the inexpressible giving from the Mother to the Son, this intervention of one who is as the same time my lawyer, auxiliary and mediatrix of the Master.
But my sin dislocates the left arm of Christ.

Jesus falls for the second time and the light of the Cross, the Salvation for the world, rises. This fall is an aurora and opens to His closest of friends the incomprehensible path of the Joy of the Cross. Riding the cross, horseman of an apocalypse which reveals nothing, I figure myself relieving Christ with the mere strength of my arms, but in so doing, cutting a bit more into his bruised flesh. He carries my failures, that gaze is the same I give to all my frustrations. I’m pulling in my direction, at the same time as I’m about to strike.

Christ is helped by Simon of Cyrene and humbly agrees not to carry His Cross alone. The virility of courage brought to its climax is also the virility of humility, of the littleness of a God who doesn’t shy away from any humiliation. I am Simon of Cyrene and I agree to bear alongside with Christ. Sometimes grumbling and often not a tall realizing the singular honor that was given me to imitate Him. God wanted me to have a place near Him in my redemption. Here is the place to the left of God that claimed for her sons the mother of James and John. The promise is kept: "The cup I’m going to drink, you too shall drink”. We can see then in the canvas a language between two hands and the Cross: who is supporting whom?

Jesus meets Saint Veronica and offers Himself. What future consolation in the hours which will follow and precede the Resurrection! How must have been the joy of the Virgin when she saw the face of her Son before He rose from the dead! The light of the gift made to art comes from the top of the canvas and descends along the Cross. I am Veronica, a far-sighted Veronica with this cloth to relieve the Master, delicate in my gift and amazed by the graces He gives me in the midst of his agonizing torture.

I am Simon, staying behind, sometimes hesitant, sometimes firmly anchored to the Cross, which has become my support in the trials.

Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem and teaches them. Because until the end the Master wanted to raise these souls, for the sake of which He had been incarnated. He redirects their suffering towards its sole utility: the conversion, the deep change, the profound transformation of the hearts. I am this child, the only character that Christ looks at, landmark of innocence in an ocean of perversity; because as soon as He could, He would look upon, speak, laugh and lay hands on the little ones. My gaze freezes at the sight of my sweet Savior all bloody. I am these women, helpless in human sight, but who do not know yet that they will sit near Him, that it will be said oh them that they "have come from the great ordeal; [they] washed their robes, whitewashed them with the blood of the Lamb”. I am also this child who seeks the spectator with his eyes and is eager to be seen while Christ dying on his knees before me is speaking to me.

Jesus falls for the third time and the fall is complete. If the first was underway and the second braked by the rope, this one seems to sign the overwhelming victory of death. Evil resides in diversion: in our flesh, God made himself a carpenter; but this blood of the Incarnation, something the angels themselves cannot conceive, now smears a wooden cross. I am at the next stage after brutal violence: indifferent violence. I finish crushing my spouse and colleagues, friends and strangers on the street, extracting myself from their suffering, taking refuge in my digital worlds, when my hand casually hits on the keyboard and on the innocent.

Jesus is stripped of his clothes and the head of the heavenly hosts, the one to whom the Father "gave everything", gives everything. I am this monopolizing hand, this hand towards which converge the lines of force of my being and of the painting, which grasps, takes, throws itself, feverish, sick and fearful of its loss, therefore tense.

Jesus is lifted up from the earth and draws everything up to Himself. "Before His outstretched arms draw between Heaven and earth the indelible sign of Your alliance," said the priest to the Father. A pivotal sign of all human history, not just dating the present like many kings, but indeed the future and even the past. A sign of elevation, Christ makes us look up to greater, higher than our daily lives and our worries, of unequal legitimacy. I am these anonymous who nail the weak one without even  looking at him. I am also those Christians, who never stop replanting in the hole of the sin in the world, the saving tree of the Cross, themselves nourished by its royal sap :  the Blood offered.

Jesus dies on the Cross and continued to speak. The nailed Word, the lacerated Word, the bloody Truth speaks until the last breath. "Father, forgive them because they know not what they do", "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise", "Woman, behold, thy son!". Then he said to the disciple, "Son, behod, thy mother! ", "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? "," I thirst… "," It is finished. "," Father, into thy hands, I commend my spirit. ".
Mercy above all, the opening of Heaven to the sinner, the maternity of Mary extended – crucified ? – on the scale of whole humanity, in so giving birth to us through pain, filiation, through the existential anguish of the abandonment of God, destitution mixed with hope, the accomplishment of the Will of the Father and despair when you think you have been abandoned: the canvas tries to repeat in the figure of Christ but above all through the characters, these seven words. I am each of those five blessed, who now live from His Life. His life, of which He made a present so that we live in the present by making Him present.

Jesus has come down from the Cross and the tree of Life gives the Bread of Life, taken and eaten by all. introduced into the world by a man, sin is defeated by the new Adam. If the first Adam took, the second gives himself. If the former listened to temptation, the latter obeyed the Father. If the first enjoyed alone even in pairs, an image of our modern couples, this one is given universally. I am that hand which violently uncovered the bruised flesh to grab and take by humiliating and that same hand which now is honoring, and, to receive the dead flesh, gently covers it.

Jesus is buried and the Light of the world that came down into the darkness has not been recognized. Sinking more deeply into our humanity, his gift does not end with death since he experiences it and goes through it. Capable of rejoining every man and woman in his sheols, of coming to fetch him in his darkest and most shameful stays of the dead, He is the Good Shepherd who goes around the mountain that is death, in which, arrogant sheep, we are fleeing. He had to pass away before the living would be able to testify again to this Body delicacy and devotion. Like a wild beast that cold flesh no longer excites, the violent left the paintings and gave way to lovers of Christ.

I am Joseph of Arimathea who lets Christ enter my tomb, who gives my grave and offers it as a restroom. I try to enlighten without seeing that the real Light is only apparently extinguished and still illuminates the scene. I am this priest and those faithful, gathered around the altar, not realizing the greatness of this Body which is eternally given to them, of this host which they receive and offer in the same gesture. I am this Church which is shaping on the canvas only one Body, that of Christ offered absolutely.

Jesus has arisen from the dead and this step of a bruised and glorious foot changes the history of the universe. Risen by the Father, it is really His Light which glorifies him from behind his back, whereas the Holy Spirit is spreading like a telluric wave to the entire cosmos. The mystery of the Father’s abandonment, lived out of love to join us, is transfigured by this Trinitarian presence shrouding the canvas and our hope rediscovered, in a blinding halo. I am the convulsed body of this guard, annihilated by my own nothingness disappearing before the Whole, but which at the same time seems to rise from the dead, transforming the stick that I used earlier to bruise him, into a crook to guide towards He and behind Him the flock of the redeemed.

If "it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me", nor you who lives but Christ who lives in you, then let’s go back to the first station and ask ourselves how to be this other Christ whom He awaits, sweet and humble of heart, that we become.

Jean Desroche, associate professor of geography, normalien,
Professor in preparatory classes at Daniélou and Ste Geneviève high schools.